Is Tom Brady plotting his exit?

ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reported Thursday, citing sources, that Brady currently is operating under the belief he will enter free agency and sign with a team other than the New England Patriots. The quarterback reportedly has shared this sentiment with others.

Now, this doesn’t mean Brady definitely is leaving New England. Things could change over the next several weeks — Brady officially can’t start negotiating with other teams until the NFL’s legal tampering period begins March 16 — and he could wind up back with the Patriots when the dust settles. Darlington even noted Thursday there still is a belief in Brady’s circles that New England will have an opportunity to convince the six-time Super Bowl champion to stay.

But it sure sounds like the odds of Brady taking his talents elsewhere might be even greater than originally anticipated. Sources told Darlington that Brady currently is evaluating the NFL landscape with the intention of leaving the Patriots.

This report comes on the heels of Darlington saying Thursday morning on ESPN’s “Get Up” that he’d be “stunned” if Brady re-signed with New England. It also comes after the Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian reported the Patriots still have not yet reached out to Brady.

NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport previously reported the Patriots were expected to meet with Brady’s agent, Don Yee, this week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, but Darlington indicated Thursday a meeting between the quarterback and head coach Bill Belichick had not yet been scheduled.

Brady, who’ll turn 43 this offseason, has spent his entire 20-year career with the Patriots since being selected in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. He showed signs of regression in 2019, a season that ended when New England lost to the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card round of the NFL playoffs, but his consistency might have been a product of his lackluster supporting cast more than anything else.

The new league year begins March 18, at which point Brady officially will become a free agent for the first time in his career. It’ll be fascinating to see what transpires between now and then.

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